Friday, April 29, 2005

Don't be careful, be conscious

Off to Wellspring in less than an hour here.

Thirteen people are entrusting Rebecca and I with their desires for their writing life, and I feel so excited and honored that they came to join us for this workshop. It will be the first of many, I feel.

I am so amazed when I look back on my life over the past year. SO MUCH has changed, and most of those changes are in direct correllation to the goals/intentions I wrote down on paper. Becca and I began at least a year ago, on our lunch hour, once a week at the Ecology Center, making a grid of where we wanted to be in relationship to certain goals in 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year. Every week we talked about what we had done/achieved/desired and what was coming next. Many of the things I wanted, like to work from home as a freelancer, which were in the 1 year column, came to pass in less than six months. I can remember the day even that I decided, and put out my request in energetic as well as spoken terms that I was ready to work for myself. I had no idea the power of that intention at that time.

The saying 'be careful what you wish for' should be revised to be: 'be careful what you intend.' But better than being careful about it, you should be conscious. So I revise the old adage to be:
"Be conscious about what you intend." Because you know what? You WILL get it. So the second part of it is, Intend things that make you feel good.

I'll report back on Sunday or Monday.

Have a fabulous, feel-good weekend.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Settling the glass issue once and for all...

I don't really think it's a question of one's glass being half-empty or half-full anymore. There's always that other neglected half, which is still something even if it's just air. At any rate, I've had an interesting day...actually an interesting week (yes already) and I've decided that when you get less than desired results at the same time as positive circumstances, it's more like your glass is full of both beautiful, clear mountain spring water, and a bit of that inevitable dirty sediment that you find in such water.

Okay, I'll stop with the similes/analogies (I love them, though. My poor mentor Alice Mattison would be well-served if there was such a technology as the analogy-detector, which could just go through and highlight them all for the writer to rip, blood and guts and all, from the text).

Blowing Smoke?

So I got an interesting rejection from an agent today that I was feeling hopeful about(how else does one feel when one is anticipating something, though, I guess?). Interesting, because she said all manner of nice things like, "the writing is really good," and "I think you will easily find someone anxious to take it on," and "I will be keeping an eye out for news of a sale." Nice, big, generous statements that, if one must get a rejection, are all the right things for that rejection to say. The problem is I never believe them when they say nice things. I think they are just trying to soften the blow. I wish she hadn't used the painfully hackneyed phrase about "not falling in love" with the project. As I have said before, I don't need a marriage proposal, just a nice platonic contract to sell my baby.

Still, in the midst of this rejection I got a simple email from one of the publications I write for that is about to put out a call for a full-time writer. She asked if I was interested, and while six months ago I would have been, I said no, but would they still like me to freelance? And her answer was, "I'm delighted to have you continue freelancing." Now, for some reason that phrase struck me in a whole new magnificent way. For one thing, this editor is not particularly effusive. She's neat, professional and to the point, which is actually what I like about her. But that word "delighted" tucked in the midst of her sentence felt as if she had kissed both my cheeks the way the French do and offered me a glass of her most expensive wine and a seat on the velvet divan. In other words, despite that I always pick out the negative as evidenced by my statement about the agent's nice comments, for once I saw the shining jewel of a positive and I plucked it out and held it in my hand and admired it. It was a good feeling.

In other news of the mundane, there are still two agents interested in my work, and I do believe that with persistence (and possibly, perspicacity), I will acquire a new agent. Though maybe I'll spark the interest of a small publisher instead on my own. I really don't know. I know that I want, more than anything else on my list of desires, to publish my novels. And not just one of them, but the two I've completed and the one that I'm in the midst of writing now.

I also had an interesting conversation with an editor from a well-respected small publisher (read= independent, not corporate owned) for an article I'm writing that was interesting, revealing and fun. He let loose and really talked about his frustrations and desires. I felt like we were pals. He invited me to visit their San Francisco office. I was mortified to realize that a couple of his pet peeves were things I have done in my own work, but hey, he sees it all, after all. He did say something that hit me rather palpably: "If writers would worry more about the writing and less about publishing, it would be a whole different world."

I guess I'm worried about both the writing and the publishing. I can't help it. At least I no longer believe that if I just lounge on my deck chair with a martini in one hand, agents and editors come knocking to find my unrealized genius sitting tucked away on my hard drive. I also have neither deck chair nor martini mix. I guess I never really thought that, anyway, actually, but how many do?

Do you?

Writing is work. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Don't convince yourself otherwise. It's hard work. And if it's the best work that you've ever done, and if you would not rather be doing anything else (not for more than two days, say), then you'll stick it out and you'll make it because there are fewer of our exact ilk, believe it or not, than there seems to be.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

Warning: Long, giddily optimistic post...

The most ominous clouds have been hanging out, weighing down the sky for the last two days but not really raining. Pockets of blue sky show through like tantalizing advertisements for Spring but neither option is taking over, leaving me with a schizophrenic feeling of not really knowing what to expect of the weather. Have you ever considered how much the weather shapes your mood?

Above and beyond that, I've been trying to decide how to write about what I've been discovering, through reading and then practical experience, in relationship to what seems to be most universally called The Law of Attraction. That basic law is one so simple it's know what I mean? It says, in essence: Like attracts like. So that's really simple. It makes sense. Most of us, even those who would rather swallow nails than believe anything stemming from New Age philosophies, can probably look into our own lives and see that that is true. Wake up in a bad mood...funny how the whole day seems to go bad. But admitting that our lives have been shaped at our own hand, that the good and especially the bad have come to us because we have drawn it, and kept it in our lives, well that's harder for most people to swallow.

But try for a minute. Can you imagine that your thoughts and feelings have a certain vibrational frequency? If you could weigh or measure them, what if you could discover that a certain thought had one measurement, while another kind of thought had yet another (I actually think that someday science will in fact be able to do this!). Or, to give an easier example...when you want to listen to your radio station, let's say you want to hear Word by Word, that fabulous literary program... You know that you can tune in to 90.9 or 91.1 FM on a radio station in the general Santa Rosa vicinity to hear what KRCB's little radio tower is transmitting. The tower is transmitting a frequency and your antennae is receiving it, pretty basic science of electromagnetics and radio waves. Even though you may not exactly know HOW it works, you don't question THAT it does. You wouldn't be silly enough to tune your dial to 104.1 expecting to pick up Word by Word, then, right?

So, let's say you have a desire, which you experience in the form of a thought or a feeling. Let's say that desire is: you want to own a new car. Let's say this feels urgent too because your current car is falling apart, sucks down gas and makes you nervous that it will give out on you each time you drive it. Assuming your thought has a frequency just like your radio station does, let's jump back to this idea of like attracting like. The frequency of your desire: I want a new car! Which actually, in reality is, "I don't want this shitty car," is transmitted out to the universe, and what do you get in return? You get a flat tire. You break down. Why? Because the universe is not benevolent? No. Because your FOCUS is your invitation to the frequency. You are focusing on the LACK, on the NOT WANTING this shitty car. And let's face it, you don't know how you'll come up with the money for your new car, you know you'll have to fight your spouse over what kind, and really you don't deserve a better, more fuel-efficient car because you dont' work hard enough...and so on and so forth. I will guarantee you that if you keep noticing the lack, the lack is what you'll have. Conversely, when you focus on the having, on the abundance, what do you have? I challenge you to look into your own history and find five examples of each scenario. I'll bet you can think of a time when, against all odds you set out to do something or have something or meet someone, and you were just dedicated to that result coming true. You could taste it. And it did. And vice versa.

I know that by now, if you thought i was a rational person you have stopped believing this and maybe are even thinking about stopping by less often. Because there's something scary inside this information. Something a little off the wall, out of our minds. And it isn't being handed down by a religious figure or a guru either, which must make that even harder to hear.

But I have to tell you, I can demonstrate more ways that this has proven true for me than not, both bad and good. And, what's more, I realize that this is the "answer" so to speak, that I have been on the tail of for a long time. First I was introduced to Caroline Myss years ago, back in college, and her concept that we have an "energy anatomy" felt so exactly, perfectly right to me that i couldn't believe it. I wanted to know my own energy anatomy better. How perfect then that I met Carole through my major in college, and got involved in the wonderful workshops at Touchstone, where workshops are designed specifically to acquaint you with the map of your body on all its levels. I started to understand how my energy, my physical structure and my consciousness work in tandem (or don't). In other words, I got the answer to my request that I wanted to know my own energy anatomy better.

And now, the Law of Attraction has fallen into my life (actually, I've attracted it) and it makes the most sense of all. It is the template I can apply to my life and see exactly why things have happened as they have. And as such, I am so excited for this workshop that Becca and I are leading because I have the energy of enthusiasm and of practical experience to bring to it.

I don't want to covert anyone or proselytize or become a motivational speaker. I just want to share what I'm learning. In fact, here is a little snapshot of the last six months of my life SINCE working with the Law of Attraction:

Six months ago--October of 2004--I fantasized about working for myself, completely, from home more than ever. I couldn't stop thinking about it. But how? I was only freelance writing a tiny bit on the side, and we were not financially in the position to have only one income, and a sketchy one at that. Becca and I were meeting about once a week to go over our writing intentions, since we both hungered for a similar result: to write as much as possible, and be paid to do so. I had a job with wonderful people for a great cause that still, somehow, didn't fit me. I wasn't happy.

I decided, well, maybe I could work from home two days a week, sure, that will be good. As soon as I let that idea in, two job interviews came my way for writing related work through channels I had not pursued. They came to me. Neither job was right, but the fact that they could show up out of the blue like that struck me and made me curious. Made me want to dream bigger.

What if I allowed myself to really embrace the idea of working in my home, at my desk, only for myself? I talked the idea over with Erik and we thought about it. After having been concerned about the idea for years, he suddenly was enthusiastic and certain that this was the right move for me.

At the end of that month, I got an offer through someone I know for an editing gig to edit manuscripts on a fairly regular basis, as a freelancer. I'm not making this up! Out of the blue! I wasn't selling myself as an editor, thought I'd been doing more and more of it through word of mouth. I said yes, and within a month I realized that the amount of money I was making through editing, combined with freelance writing, would equal the same, if not more of an income, than I was making at my day job. So I gave two months notice.

Every time I felt the insecurity of doubt or fear about the future arise, I would write in my journal about how wonderful it would be to work for myself, what the upside was, and how it would allow me to really live the life I wanted. I fought fear at every turn, I refused to let it in for very long because I could feel it's life-sucking energy on my spirit and I knew I couldn't afford it.

By the time I left my job, I had put away so much money that I had been making freelancing ON THE SIDE while getting ready to leave, that I had an impressive cushion to pad even a couple of slow months of work. I kept looking at that number and saying to myself: where did this come from??

I've been working for myself for almost four months now and I haven't even had to go into that cushion. It keeps flowing, so long as I keep allowing.

And my mood is better, I have planted a garden, I now cook and nurture myself more, exercise regularly and write all the time.

So you tell me. Am I out of my mind?


Thursday, April 21, 2005

When you're having a bad day, least you're not in jail. Then you'll feel a whole lot better.

Want to know more about the San Quentin Families Project? Read my article, published today, or send $$ to:

San Quentin Families Project
c/o San Rafael First United Methodist Church
9 Ross Valley Drive
San Rafael, CA 94901

Asylum Granted
Prisoner's family comes to America (North Bay Bohemian)
By Jordan E. Rosenfeld

This past January, 40-year-old Larry Stiner's household more than doubled in size. His six half-siblings, born and raised in the South American country of Suriname, finally received the political asylum they were promised by the United States government nearly 11 years ago.

Larry and his half-sisters Kishana, Latanya, Natisha and Taminia and his half-brothers Lige and MTume, share the same father: Watani Stiner, a San Quentin inmate sentenced to life in prison in 1969 for conspiracy to commit murder.

The conviction was the result of a dispute between two black civil rights groups that left two men dead. Watani Stiner's brother George was also convicted. In 1975, the two brothers, fearing an alleged retaliatory plot by white prison guards, escaped from San Quentin and fled to Suriname.

Earlier this month, the family eagerly awaited the final step in its reunification: Watani Stiner's parole from prison.

For Stiner, it's been a long journey. He was a film student at UCLA in the mid-1960s when the Civil Rights movement attracted many disenfranchised young men to black power organizations. Watani (who then went by his given name of Larry) was drawn into a group called Us, run by Maulana Karenga, founder of the holiday Kwanzaa. A year after Us became one of the most visible black power groups in Los Angeles, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party in Oakland.

According to numerous books and newspaper articles, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's counterintelligence program began to covertly fan the flames of violence between such groups, hoping to prevent the rise of another Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. In August 1967, Hoover wrote an internal memorandum to all FBI offices "to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters."

On Jan. 17, 1968, Us and the Black Panthers met at UCLA to resolve a dispute between the two groups. Both Watani and his brother George Stiner were present. The meeting itself was uneventful, but afterward, sparked by nervous tension--and possible FBI involvement--one man shot his weapon into the crowd, causing panic and further gunfire that ultimately left two men dead. Watani himself was shot in the shoulder. In 1969, the Stiner brothers were indicted with three others for the deaths of Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter and John Huggins. The brothers were eventually convicted, although evidence presented at the trial remains controversial.

Watani was first placed in a Chino guidance center, then Soledad Prison. In 1970, he joined George in San Quentin, and learning of an alleged plot against their lives by white prison guards, the brothers planned their escape.

In 1974, aided by a black prison guard, the two men escaped.

Watani and George fled to Guyana, an international hub for the black power movement. (George Stiner's whereabouts are unknown today.) Watani settled in politically volatile Suriname, a Dutch colony bordering Guyana. There, he met a Surinamese woman and started a family. Civil war broke out in 1980, and the already weak economy of Suriname collapsed. For more than a decade, Stiner and his family faced cholera and tuberculosis epidemics, as well as heavily armed soldiers. Fearing for his children, Stiner eventually turned himself over to American authorities in exchange for their political asylum in 1994.

The U. S. government was slow to grant the asylum request, and in the interim, the children's mother became unstable. They were shuffled off to separate foster care homes. Finally, last January, all six children were reunited in Los Angeles with their half-brother, Larry Stiner, his wife, Diane, and their two daughters.

The children, says Stiner, are just "eager for Dad to come home."

Though Larry Stiner is determined to keep this family together, adding six children to an existing household of four on one income has been stressful. Larry works as a communications operator for the city of Los Angeles. When he gets home at the end of the day, his and Diane's work has only just begun.

Enter Suzi Jestadt, a Marin County woman who made Watani Stiner's acquaintance when she began working as a volunteer this year with a men's support group inside San Quentin.
Jestadt was so moved by Watani's story and his children's situation that she began to look for ways to help out. She and Pastor Liza Klein of the San Rafael First United Methodist Church are in the final stages of setting up a fund called the San Quentin Families Project.

"Watani is the one that everyone looks up to and admires in the group," says Jestadt. "He has a quality of peacefulness. Working with him and these men has completely transformed my life. He's a hero to me."

The purpose of the project is to help the families of prisoners in need and, says Jestadt, "to encourage inmates to stay in relationships with their children while they are serving their time."
On April 5, Watani Stiner stood before the San Quentin parole board for his annual hearing. The board denied his parole, calling him an "unreasonable risk to society." Watani's actions in the 1960s now qualify as an "act of terrorism" under Section 865 of the Homeland Security Act.

"There is no possible way that he is a risk to society," says Larry Stiner. "We're talking about someone who was 19 during a time of social turmoil. [The parole board] paints him as someone you shouldn't dare let on the street, and suggested that all those years he was in Suriname he was living in the Caribbean, high on the land, when that was not true at all."

Watani will get to see his children, for the first time in 12 years, when they visit him in San Quentin next week. He plans to continue fighting for his release, and hope remains that the family will one day be permanently reunited.

"Over the years, he [Watani] has compiled documents that are full of inconsistencies about his case," says Jestadt. "He thinks he will be able to take the case to lower courts. He has more than proven his good behavior."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Thirty is the new Old

This is one of those weeks where, though it's only mid-afternoon Tuesday, it feels like Thursday already. How does this happen? I guess this is what happens to we of the non-regimented schedules. NOT that I am complaining.

I just realized today that I am already less than six months away from my 31st birthday (August 30th, if you care to know). Another surprising shocker. How did that year go so fast?? It seems I was just standing on that precipice overlooking the last few steps of my twenties, wondering if, at long last, thirty would bring with it the promise of more serious attention in the eyes of the world, or any strange moles, fat rolls or unexpected, newfound aches.

And while I'm usually the first person to say you're only as old as you feel, and that it's just an arbitrary number, thirty has been signficant so far. I feel like an adult. Maybe it's just that the adult I was always precociously behaving like as a kid and finally caught up and integrated with my actual age. At any rate, I find that I feel old around my teenage siblings; "old" in the sense of "out of it," "unhip" and someone to avoid telling their teenage exploits to. I even feel old around people in their mid-twenties, particularly if they are single. When I say "old," once again, I mean that I feel as though there is a chasm between the worldview and behaviors of me and "them." In some cases not a very big chasm, but in other cases, one big enough to make me notice it.

In June I am going to be graduating from this two year long Masters (MFA) program in creative writing from Bennington College. Even six months ago that idea made me terribly sad, but I must admit that now it feels me with equal parts pride and relief. I look forward to this final residency and I look forward to being done with being in the subordinate position. One can only handle so much mentorship, you know? I feel that I've started to curb my usual freespirited writing in favor of trying to please my professors. I know that this is nobody's fault but my own, but still, it's troubling. Yet, scarier than the idea of giving my lecture is the feeling of wondering what will come next. How will I feel when there is no two-week sabbatical in Vermont? Will i return to my old style of writing, my prolific style. Will my novels sell? I think the answer to all of that is yes, eventually. Over time, these things will come to be.

I leave you with my guiding quote of the month, if not the year, from Goethe:

"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred...unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way."


Monday, April 18, 2005

I have been chastised for not posting more frequently than last Thursday by Katie. But it feels like hardly a day ago. When blogging falls to the wayside for me, it's usually a sign that I am huddled under a massive towering pile of deadlines and I fear that if I peek out even long enough to write something here, the pile will tumble, smother me and I will regret it.

I finished four articles in a two-week period and am once again up against a deadline for two more (let's not even talk about manuscripts I've been editing and thesis-writing or lecture-procrastinating). One of these articles I have been heavily procrastinating to the degree that I'm now down to the wire with not much work put into it. But as I think I've said before, I work well under pressure. Hahah. I hope.

Erik and I, after watching the movie Sideways, have suddenly gotten into wine. If you know me, you know that I don't drink in any serious way. And having grown up near the wine country, perhaps I avoided the whole world of wine because it is so ubiquitious and well...expensive. But something has happened, that movie being a kind of infomercial for wine, I guess, and now I'm into it. So much so that as I sit here at not quite four in the afternoon I'm thinking how nice a glass of wine would taste. Fortunately I don't believe in drinking alone, especially not mid-day, no matter how expensive the bottle chilling in my fridge.

So. You want news? You want updates? Everything hangs in a kind of balance at the moment. I just sent off my novel Self-Serve to an agent. It went priority mail so it will probably arrive in a couple of days, at which point I can start chewing nails again. I remember when I was agented the first time, how exciting it was. I even got a thrill out of the query process...and then of course I've gone through this lull where the idea of seeking another agent was horrifying because I'd already learned what a disappointment it could be. I've gained renewed optimism, though, and the agent I sent my ms. to is someone I would really love to be represented by. She went through the Iowa Writer's Workshop so, presumably, she is a writer herself, which means, I think, that she might get writers better than your average agent.

Other than that, until June, when my thesis/lecture are behind me, I don't know what kind of posting I can offer you. Nothing exciting has happened. Oh, except that our workshop is filling up! Oh my it's going to be great. It's not too late either for you to join us (see link to the right under classes and events). I like this mode of teaching, and I think Becca and I will probably continue to do this kind of workshop at least once a year. Maybe twice. Maybe we'll mix it up and go different places with it. All I know is that it's going to be fantastic and I can't wait.

My garden is producing strawberries! And little Asparaguys (Spelling on purpose). The tomatoes need a bit more sun, but the zucchini squash seem to be thriving. The melons and cantaloupes are a toss up.

More soon. I promise. I have to write about Katie. About how she says "I'm sorry" too much, how she bosses me around in the studio, and how she gets when she is drunk...tune in.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Two new articles of mine running today. Here are some "bytes" from each...links to the complete stories are to the right under "Journalism."

Chalk and Cheese
An Unlikely Literary Friendship Between Poets Kay Ryan and Dana Gioia

"When you're involved in some intense kind of solitary creative activity, you wonder if you're not at some level slightly insane," says Gioia. "It's wonderfully reassuring to meet another writer and discover that he or she shares your insanity."

"For most of the world," Ryan reflects, "writing, especially writing poetry, might be a nice hobby or recreation, but not a primary passion or the deepest engagement with life. It's wonderful to have someone as a friend for whom it is essential and central."

Both describe the other as "down to earth" and both say that they laugh a lot in each other's company. Both also express having felt themselves to be outsiders in the literary world at one point, having developed themselves as poets without the shaping hand of an academic institution. Ryan says, "I think that all genuine poets are outsiders, really. I don't think you can be taught. If your writing resembles something else, then that's already been done. The very definition of poetry is that something eternally true is articulated in a way that makes it seem as if it was just invented."

When asked to describe Gioia's work, Ryan says, "I think Dana writes very elegant poetry that is deeply grounded in his experiences and informed by his noble heart." One of the words that Gioia uses to describe Kay's poetry is "spiky," which delights her. "

Social Capital: John Crowley's Pub Crawl
When it comes to the consumption of alcohol, I am scornfully referred to as a lightweight by my friends. This means that what most people consider a refreshing little cocktail will soon have me giddily revealing my intimate secrets before leaving me with a nasty headache.

So when I first heard through a friend about the Petaluma Pub Crawl (which is the only way one gets invited), I was reluctant. The word "crawl" seemed to suggest a debased state of gravity by night's end.

I would have left it at that if said friend didn't then invite me to subscribe to Pub Crawl founder John Crowley's e-mail newsletter. What I could not figure out was how the topics posted in Crowley's "PC News," such as updates on local open-space purchases, links to articles about important social issues and details about the businesses of local Petalumans, had anything to do with getting out on a Saturday night for drinks.

I decided I'd better talk to this John Crowley fellow to solve the puzzle. Crowley, a software engineer, hails from a pub-owning family in Dublin, where pub crawling is integral to the social scene, and where the crawling refers not to being on one's knees, but to moving to where one's friends are on a given evening.

"Pubs in Ireland are extensions of your living room," he explains. "Since you can't invite all your friends back to your home, you meet in a public place for a good time to socialize."
It was in his Petaluma living room some four years ago that the idea for a pub crawl came to Crowley. One weekend, when his wife and two children were traveling, he found himself watching television.

"I thought: what a horrible existence. So I sent an e-mail to all the people I knew in Petaluma to meet for drinks. They all showed up."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I had the most wonderful interview just now with Philip Beard (in-person, which is rare these days), author of a brand new book called Dear Zoe. This book is being touted as "9-11 fiction" which is off the mark if you ask me, because it's really about one family's grief, but as Philip himself said today, there was no way he could write a book about the life of this teenager in that time period and NOT write about that otherwise "huge elephant." He used it to brilliant device to show how a larger over-arching tragedy can overwhelm the individual feelings of a life. He also reminded me of what I love about literature, that it has the power to zoom in close and reveal what can't be seen collectively. Read it. Buy it! His story is fascinating. I'll let you know when it airs.

He was just a sweet, interesting fellow, and we had one of those conversations where I didn't feel like the formal host-behind-the-mike, but just like two people sitting in a room talking about literature; those are the kinds of interviews where I come away saying, "YES, this is for me!" and don't feel like quitting since there's still no major cash showing up (we're still waiting to hear on the CPB grant).

It's really hard to convince people that literature is a worthy subject when you talk about it like that. When you say things like, "people who read are more inclined to be involved in civic life..." people tune out. But when you start talking about the stuff of literature, about a good book, when you start sharing your frustration over a character's behavior or find yourself sobbing at the end of a book of fiction, say something like The Time Traveler's Wife, which isn't even plausible, or Life of Pi, and you feel enriched, bigger, emboldened by it, that's the proof that literature is crucial. And it pisses me off that we have to work so hard to prove this to potential funders. Terry Gross does a great job, and she does include literature on her show, but she only gives it a small percentage of her time, and she generally only talks to the bigger name authors.

Anyway. I'm going to start posting show updates here, because I always forget to do so. Next Show is April 20th and will feature Francine Prose (A Changed Man, Blue Angel) and Bart Schneider (Beautiful Inez). There are links to the side for Word by Word archives, but if you'd like to listen LIVE in streaming visit: and click "listen" on the night of the show 7pm Pacific time. I suggest visiting earlier to be sure your player works.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

My website ( has been hacked! Which is actually good timing, because I just decided not to renew my domain name and let the old site go. And gone it is. In its place is some sort of People's republic of Indonesians who want the war to be stopped. Generally I agree with them, but I find it quite amusing that they hacked my site! It was fate, I guess. I have a lot less bad feelings about someone hacking my blog, for which I do not have to pay money, and which I can recreate fairly quickly if need be. It's a zen experience, letting go of one's website.

So, I'm having a bit more success with novel #3, whose title keeps changing. I'm serious when I asked for title votes. I'm torn between "Going Home" or "Strange, but Familiar." Both would work thematically. So if you have a preference, don't be shy!

Today is one of those days where I do not want to be at my desk much longer. It's not procrastination Thursday style lack of desire, it's a kind of tunnel vision I get where I feel like I have not interacted with the world enough and am starting to behave like a child raised by wolves. I notice that my timing with people gets off if I'm out of the public for too long. And while I believe that my therapist thinks my decision to work at home is not necessarily the healthiest thing for me, on most days I'd say she's wrong. Today, though, I can tell I'm craving serious contact. But since I have no friends really with the luxury of a schedule like mine whom I do not have to drive to see (hi Joy L!), I'm kind of screwed except for the kind of interactions that I can have by talking to merchants downtown. It's also too windy out to walk (I've got problems with makes my ears hurt). If I'm ambitious later, I'll strap something over my ears and jog to the track at the high school, where I will probably make a fool out of myself as I run a twenty-five minute mile.

God that reminds high school a friend of mine dated a boy who broke the four minute mile record...and damn I think of that now and wonder how anyone could do that!

So...I'll probably get in my car and drive lame is that?


Friday, April 08, 2005

P.S. This blog was written Thursday am, but blogger was having problems, so it's belated...ah well.


Thursday is my official day of procrastination. I don't just mean today. I mean every week. I only just realized it today that it is without fail a Thursday on which I feel like what was I thinking becoming a writer? Who was the idiot that said she could write these assignments? And where is the flunkie I can get in a hurry to do the work the idiot agreed to do before they realize what a fraud I am? It's some kind of syndrome that, in my former workplaces where there were co-workers with whom to commiserate, I would probably just write off to "it's-almost-friday-itis." But rather than fight it, from now on I am going to celebrate it with chocolate, a refusal to wear my bra (thanks Robin S.) and a dedication to use this day to do ANYTHING but work at my desk.

As soon as I get up I am going to continue reading Francine Prose's new book, A Changed Man, for our interview tomorrow. Then I am going to watch an episode of the X-Files (season 7. I've been rewatching the entire series because a) I wasn't ready to let it go b) I missed enough crucial episodes to leave huge gaps of knowledge c) I'm terrified to fall in love with another tv show).

And you've probably guessed by now by my absolute lack of discussion that i'm back to coffee. My digestive crisis has passed, or eased at least, and though I'm still going slim on all the other possible offenders, coffee is the only thing that really gets me up in the morning (There's a reason god made babies so loud...since mothers aren't supposed to drink coffee, how the hell else are they supposed to get out of bed).

Now, something strange has happened to my cat, Figaro. For the nearly nine years he has been with us, he has displayed a distinct inability to stalk, hunt, capture and kill anything more animate than a piece of string. He's found lots of strings, though, and we've rewarded him with praise as if they were flesh and blood creatures. But as of this month he has caught a rat and a very fat mouse. Now the mouse was in pretty good condition but sadly, the rat was not. (As I type, Figaro is sitting at my side demanding food. He's such a pain in the ass!). At any rate, it takes him an entire day to get over the loss of his beloved rodents. I just don't understand why it has taken him nine years to learn to hunt. He must have apprenticed with one of the local cats. I do not understand.

I did get another thirty pages of my novel changed to third person today, and that's about the best I'm going to do, I'm afraid.

P.S. another person named Jordan Rosenfeld emailed me today. Weird. I don't know if that person is male or female.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A new book meme circulating around the sphere is going by the name “123.5,” and its rules are these:

1. Grab the nearest book.

2. Open the book to page 123.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

Here's Myfanwy's: "Symmetrical toes, asymmetrical pads."

from: the section on Merriam's Shrew (Sorex merriami) in Mammal Tracks & Sign--A Guide to North American Species by Mark Elbroch.

Here's mine: "broad and so plump that the knuckles were dimpled. The wooden"

From: "The Collected Novels of Jean Rhys." That line is from Quartet.

What does it all mean? I have no idea. Maybe we can form some big, collective poem.

Here it is so far:

Symmetrical toes, asymmetrical pads,

broad and so plump the knuckles were dimpled. The wooden

Sunday, April 03, 2005

I'm trying to organize my thoughts about last night's adventure because I have an 1100-1400 word first person article due about it on Wednesday. This is not my article, just a spilling over of the night so I can have something to work with:

Pub Crawl

I, the Northern California lightweight drinking champion, (she who once threw up for 24 consecutive hours) last night went on a Pub Crawl. Okay...there is no such award. And it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because this P.C. isn't about the drinking.

Oh don't get me wrong, we started out at the Sweetwater Distillery/Portworks in town (walking distance from my house), where the bartender was making FREE Lemon Drops and Cosmopolitans, and there were many takers (myself included). But the concept of this crawl, started by Dublin-born local John Crowley-is about socializing, not drinking. The first time I sat down and spoke to John he told me, "every time I invite people to a pub crawl, they often say things like 'Oh No, I don't drink.'" Which is his cue to give them a bit of Irish Pub Crawling history (bear with him a moment, I know what you're thinking...Irish...Pubs). "In Dublin, you go from pub to pub following the watering holes of famous Irish poets like Yeats or Cavenaugh, reading their poetry or prose at each location." While there was no readings, we were all instructed to bring a book that meant something to us and trade it out. I wound up trading out Brave New World without taking a book of my own (a good thing--too many already!) to a woman who couldn't remember if she'd read it in high school/college. I said, "it'll freak you out how prophetic he was" and that really urged her on.

This Pub Crawl started some five years ago here in town, when John, a father of two small children, realized that a Saturday night of entertainment had become mainly television, and he couldn't stand it anymore. He called up some buddies and suggested they meet at a local joint downtown. It must be noted that Petaluma doesn't have any true pubs. Well, one, a new Irish pub called Finbar Devine's, but before there were only two kinds of places to put your drunk on: the bars of most restaurants in town, or the seedy drown-your-tears-in-your-beer types of locales, which apparently have been spawning a rash of fisticuffs with downtown riff-raff after hours!

This was not that kind of evening. The Pub Crawl, linked to Crowley's e-community of likeminded, progressive Petalumans, which is ever growing, has spread by word of mouth only to a crowd that is easily one hundred, often more. The only way to go, is to know someone and get invited. And ideally, you'll be from Petaluma, since the idea is to build community. The locations are chosen in walking distance from one another most times. The idea is to socialize. And socialize we did.

I must say, I noticed a distinct lack of meat-market pick-ups going on, a lot of genuine conversation, and a "scene" for the 45+ Set who are plum tired of going to movies and eating out. As one bubbly woman said to me, "I'm here to party!" The words of a 20 year-old? No way. This woman is a high-powered stock broker by day, who "rested up" for the weekend so she could stay up until the dancing, at Dempsey's.

After the free liquor (better than a commercial!) at the distillery, we moved to Graziano's, one of the bastions of restauranting in town-Italian with a great bar. Graziano himself, all smiles, wove among the crowd, patting backs and chatting with his clientele. It was packed to the gills, and the non-pub crawlers who had the misfortune to be in the bar looked quite miffed to be crowded out, but hey, there were 100 of us! What were they going to do.

It was here that I had some of the most interesting conversations of the night, including one with the "Boy" half of "Boy Meets Girl" a band mostly popular in the eighties. George wrote that Whitney Houston song, "I want to dance with somebody," and I tried to recall if he'd made a guest appearance on American Idol last season, but there was no way in hell I was going to ask, having to then admit that I watch the show. We got into this artsy little conversation about the process of writing--him, music, me-whatever it is that I write, and damn if after a few minutes I wasn't totally engaged. He was describing the way that music is a part of his everyday experience. The way someone says something, its rhythm, will strike him, or the cadence of somebody drumming their fingers on the bar, or you name it...and he is constantly putting together "new" music, can't wait to work on the puzzle that is music. My answers were not so eloquent, but we had a good talk.

I brought along my husband and my 20-something friend, who are both much less social than I, and as such, were good company for each other, if not a little wierded out by the whole thing. But I never fooled them about what they were getting into.

From Graziano's we made it to Dempsey's where the floor was cleared and the dancing began. I know what you're thinking, as my friend said: "Old people...dancing..." and then she kind of shivered. But I gotta tell you, as I gazed out at the writhing bodies, I didn't see 40-50 somethings; these people, in their hip clothes and with their good moves, looked like any crowd of 20-30 somethings grooving it up. And look, I've been to the ex-hippie freestyle dancing kind of events that evoke the spirit of the Grateful Dead. This was not that. DJ Val spun serious tunes. I had a really hard time not getting up and shaking it to Prince and James Brown myself.

And I have to admit that it is here I crapped out. I didn't make it the final leg to Zebulon's, but I had a strangely good time, and saw that John's desire to create "social capital" is working. People were happy to see each other, having fun and clearly, if the event happened more often, they'd be there.